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Mukherjee scoops £10,000 Guardian First Book Award

The only non-fiction title shortlisted for the 2011 Guardian First Book Award has taken home the £10,000 prize, giving Fourth Estate its fourth win in seven years.

American oncologist and science writer Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Emperor of All Maladies was awarded the gong, which recognises the finest new writers who have had their first book published in English in the last year, at a ceremony at Tate Modern last night (1st December).

The Guardian's deputy editor Katharine Viner, one of the judges, said this year's award had been "the most hotly contested by a very long way", with the final judging meeting continuing its impassioned debate until just a minute before one of the judges had to leave to catch a train. But she praised the winning book as "wonderful, ambitious, wise and insightful".

Author and academic Sarah Churchwell, a fellow judge, said: "The Emperor of All Maladies is a cultural history of cancer and its treatment, from its first identification as a disease in the ancient world to 21st century research into its cellular genesis and treatment. Siddhartha Mukherjee has marshalled an immense amount of material into a readable and inspiring story. The result is a gripping, enlightening read about the nature of illness and our battle against what begins to look like mortality itself."

Mukherjee commented: "It is a great and distinct honor to be selected for this award. In recognising The Emperor of All Maladies, the judges have also recognised the extraordinary courage and resilience of the men and women who struggle with illness, and the men and women who struggle to treat illnesses. I am delighted and honoured to join a formidable list of writers and scholars - Zadie Smith, Alexandra Harris, Petina Gappah, Alex Ross among them."

He also wins an advertising package in the Guardian and Observer for the book.

Mukherjee's win is the fourth for publisher Fourth Estate in seven years, following Alex Ross's The Rest is Noise (2008), Yiyun Li's A Thousand Years of Good Prayers (2006) and Alexander Masters' Stuart: A Life Backwards (2005).

The other shortlisted titles were: Pigeon English, Stephen Kelman (Bloomsbury); Down The Rabbit Hole, Juan Pablo Villalobos (And Other Stories); The Collaborator, Mirza Waheed (Viking); The Submission, Amy Waldman (Wm Heinemann).

David Nicholls, Antonia Fraser, Stuart Broom of Waterstone's and Lisa Allardice, editor of the Guardian Review, also judged the award.